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Cape Town - No one can be held responsible for 13 deaths at the SANDF’s notorious Oudtshoorn Infantry School, a military board of inquiry has found.
It put the high fatality rate at the base, where there have been at least 11 deaths and two suicides in the past three years, down to “fraternisation” between instructors and recruits, and poor medical check-ups for recruits.
The inquiry was convened following the suicide last year of 21-year-old Ntokozo Ngcobo, who shot herself shortly after being humiliated during a parade over her relationship with a corporal at the base, who was stripped of his rank during the same incident.
The military ombudsman had been asked to investigate by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula because the unit’s own boards of inquiry had been unable to conduct “quality and conclusive investigations”.
Confidential briefing documents given to Parliament’s defence oversight committee showed there had been 16 deaths at the base over the past 10 years.
This week Mapisa-Nqakula released the findings of military boards of inquiry conducted since 2009 in response to a parliamentary question from DA defence spokesman David Maynier.
The summary of the findings and recommendations of the inquiry at Oudtshoorn noted that 13 deaths had been investigated.
The summary said the board had found “no one could be held liable for the deaths or incidents” at the infantry school.
However, it said measures had been put in place to combat “incidents of fraternisation”.
“Any instructor caught fraternising with recruits or a student is immediately removed from the training wing.”
Maynier said he had received complaints from female recruits who had completed the infantry school programme saying they were “used like mattresses”.
SA National Defence Union spokesman Pikkie Greeff agreed that sexual harassment was a big problem, but said this has nothing to do with Ngcobo’s death.
He said she had been in a long-term relationship with Ngobeni, who was the father of her child and was in any case not an instructor.
Pretoria News Weekend